A Comic Book Entry – Because Batman, That’s Why!

Or, “because Wolverine, that’s why,” if we’re talking about the Marvel universe.

This ranting has been spawned by a pleasant series of comments from a reader (hello Lunar Archivist!) who knows much more about the DC Universe than I do, and helps shore up my gaps in knowledge.  This also ties in with my rants about soft retcons and origin stories.

To the point – there has been a trend in comics, especially since the gritty ’90s, to give all characters old and new the same kind of backstory.  And that backstory must be, in a word, “dark.”  The Dark Age of Comics had its place, and dark characters have their place, but as I have said before, Darkier and Edgier just does not work for everyone.  Batman’s origin was always dark and that’s fine.  Wolverine’s origin was always shrouded in mystery and dark too and that’s fine.  It works for Batman and Wolverine.  But because those two characters are the poster children for Writer’s Favorite, apparently someone got the idea that if other characters were more like Batman and Wolverine, they would be more appealing to the reading audience (and thus sell more comics).

I hear you say, “That’s astoundingly cynical.”  Then again…Once upon a time, Barry Allen wanted to help people so he went into forensic science and joined the police department.  He had a healthy family life with two living parents!  He was also a fan of Jay Garrick, the Justice Society of America’s Flash.  And one day, there was an accident and Barry Allen became the new Flash.  He was literally an ascended fanboy, and that’s pretty cool.  But when it was decided after a long period of absence that Barry Allen would be the definitive new Flash in the New 52, that kind of origin just wouldn’t do.  So instead his nemesis is responsible for the death of his mother and his father is framed for the murder.  And instead of going into law enforcement out of a genuine desire to help people, he becomes a superhero to save his father, which he fails to do as his father dies in prison leaving him guilt-stricken for the rest of his life over his failure to save his parents.  That sounds suspiciously Batman-esque to me.

What was wrong with the ascended fanboy origin?  What was wrong with keeping Wally West as Flash when Barry Allen had died in 1985 and so there’s a whole generation of readers who’ve just been told their Flash is not the real Flash?

I’d better stop there or I’ll rant on DC in general.

I like the idea of an ascended fanboy.  In a universe so full of superheroes, is it any wonder so many people would want to be superheroes themselves?  Aren’t superheroes supposed to be an inspiration?  Shouldn’t people seek to emulate them to the best of their abilities?  A dark and tortured past is just unnecessary.  In fact, a major part of Superman’s backstory (unless that changed again) is that he had a normal, happy, and stable childhood (except for the destruction of his planet).  The Kents took in the little alien and raised him on down-home, good-old fashioned farm-livin’ and it worked out great.  That upbringing is part of keeps Superman from just saying, “Screw this, I’m taking over now,” and doing so.

Comics must have drama.  Origin stories provide drama.  But not everyone has to start out such a tortured soul.  The life of a superhero is going to bring about nothing but pain and misery.  The most happy-go-lucky superhero is probably going to face unimaginable terror and hopeless odds.  We all know how the future is going to go, so why not give them a break and let them have a normal past?  Why not even use that past as a source of strength instead yet another notch on the superhero’s angst belt?  To quote Lunar Archivist – “I’m just at a complete loss to understand why DC has this need to have every hero’s origin and existence built upon the corpses of their families and friends and have everyone behave like a complete dick or douchebag.”

DC: Because Batman!  That’s why!

Lunar Archivist – “Seriously, are nice people that repulsive or difficult to associate within this day and age?”

Marvel: Wolverine!

To the editors of Marvel and DC – please, please, please stop this.  Please.  I love Batman and Wolverine as much as the next fan, but I am so tired of new characters that are little more than cheap knock-offs or everyone getting the Darkier and Edgier treatment just because it works so well on Batman/Wolverine.  Frankly so much Dark and Edgy makes me a little tired of Batman/Wolverine.  There’s nothing wrong with a superhero with a normal past.  Superheroes with normal pasts are actually relatable.  Superheroes that are not Dark and Edgy are acceptable.  Seriously.  Please stop making everyone and everything Batman/Wolverine.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

5 thoughts on “A Comic Book Entry – Because Batman, That’s Why!”

  1. As the person responsible for inspiring this article, I’d like to also assume responsibility for an unintentional piece of misinformation that I gave you: in the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe, what I said about Barry Allen’s revised origin is 100% true. In the New 52, the murder still happened but it has yet to be determined whether or not Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, is responsible for it. Also, while Barry’s father’s still alive, he’s still rotting in prison. Either way, his new origin still sucks. 😛

    Funny that you should mention Superman, by the way. The Silver Age version of the character had two sets of dead parents: his original Kryptonian ones (who died when their home planet exploded) and his adoptive ones (who died of an incurable exotic disease). The post-Crisis version of Superman had two living adoptive parents. In the mid 2000s, DC decided to go the route of the 1978 movie and the television series “Smallville” by killing off Jonathan Kent and keeping Martha Kent alive. And now, we’ve come full circle with the New 52, where Superman once again has two sets of dead parents.

    It’s kind of ridiculous when you look at the current Justice League roster and realize that not one single member had a healthy, happy family life growing up and most of them are either orphaned or have at least one dead parent.

    1. I did not realize Superman had so many dead parents. I guess I assumed the stable, two-parent household of the Kents was the norm, not the exception. I think it seems just slightly improbable everyone is either orphaned or has one dead parent. Just slightly…

      1. I think something similar was seen in “Star Trek”, where someone pointed out that many of the main characters had an awful lot of dead family members.

        Don’t quote me on this because I don’t know or care enough about the New 52 to research this, but as far as I know:

        Superman: Both biological and adoptive parents dead.
        Batman: Both parents dead.
        Aquaman: Both parents dead.
        Flash: Mother murdered as a child, father in prison.
        Green Lantern: Father died while test piloting an experimental plane.

        Not sure about the New 52, but Cyborg’s mother was killed in the same lab accident that maimed him in the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. She’s just absent in current continuity.

        Wonder Woman’s parents are both alive, but they’re huge douchebags, so the dysfunction is there. x_x

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